treating turtle shell rot

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by jillianjiggs, Mar 10, 2004.

  1. jillianjiggs

    jillianjiggs Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    550
    Joined:
    May 13, 2003
    I've got a few mature box turtles. They weren't in the best shape when I got them, and this has been the first year that I let them hibernate outside. They hibernated in their enclosure, a wood box built 3x4 feet and about 2 feet tall. It's filled with bark and has a pond built out of a dishwashing pan. They seem pretty happy in it. Anyways, my smallest female had some shell rot when I got her. Their enclosure was in a shed this winter, so it wasn't wet. I didn't water the bark down during the winter to avoid getting the area too damp. Her shell rot is worse now, with a spot on her side, rump, and in the front near her chin. It doesn't look nasty, but I don't want it to get worse. Any ideas on how to treat it?
     
  2. Sandra Nelson

    Sandra Nelson Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    77
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2002
    Location:
    East Central Minnesota
    Found this treatise on home treatment for mild shell rot in turtles. Hope it helps.

    As follows:TREATMENT:

    Step 1: Correct the cause of the problem. For turtles who live in captivity, poor conditions will cause shell rot. Dirty water, cool temperatures, and lack of appropriate basking area and light are the most likely culprits. If your turtle has developed shell rot in your care, the first step is to correct your husbandry. Extensive information is available on correct care of a wide variety of species, on the internet and in books. Once you have corrected your turtle's housing, you may turn you attention to the shell condition.

    Step 2: Clean the turtle's shell. Using a soft toothbrush and mild soap, clean off any dirt, algae and damaged pieces of the outer layers of the scutes. After the bath, dry the turtle off as thoroughly as possible. Gently peel off anything that will come off easily. Try to scrape out the white pits. If they do not come out easily, leave them in place. Further treatment will loosen them up. The small white spots often come out easily when the turtle is completely dry, even if they stay stubbornly in place while wet. Scrape them with the edge of a clean, old credit card or some other plastic utensil. Do not use a knife. The infected material needs to be removed so that the treatment can reach the tissue below it. Large areas and deep infections should only be cleaned by an experienced veterinarian. Extensive debriding is incredibly painful for the animal and should be done under anesthesia.

    Step 3: Disinfect the shell with a general antiseptic. In years past, antiseptics such as hydrogen peroxide or Betadine (povidone-iodine) or antibiotic ointments have been used. These will generally kill the pathogens successfully, however recent research indicates that these things actually slow the healing process by preventing the regrowth of the epithelial cells over the effected area. The antiseptic of choice is often Nolvasan (chlorhexidine) which is available from veterinary clinics (non-prescription), some pet stores and herp supply stores on the internet. Healing is noticably quicker with Nolvasan, so it is worth the effort to find some and use it. Nolvasan liquid solution is generally made with one part Nolvasan, 100 parts water. If there are just a few discolored areas, swab those areas with the weak antiseptic solution. Reapply the solution every ten minutes or so for about a half-hour. If there are a large number of tiny discolored areas, it might work better to soak the turtle. If you choose to soak, make the liquid shallow enough for the turtle to easily hold its head up out of the water, because any antiseptic can cause some minor eye irritation. A follow-up application of silver sulfadiazine cream can be beneficial, however SSD cream is available by prescription only in the US.

    Step 4: Air! Place the turtle in a dry container for at least 2 hours. Some turtles are not overly stressed if left in the dry container overnight(in complete darkness), returning it to the aquarium for at least a portion of the day. Air is the enemy of shell rot pathogens, so it is important to keep the animal dry for a lengthy period of time. But dehydration and excessive stress must also be prevented.

    Continue to clean, disinfect and air dry the turtle each day for a 5 to 7 days. By that time, all the white pits will have loosened and been removed. If not, continue treatment.You will need to remove all the whitened material to get to the healthy shell underneath, so that it can heal and grow normally. If there are discolored areas remaining after 2 weeks, consult a veterinarian.

    When the turtle has been returned to the aquarium full time, it is vital that you maintain conditions that will prevent a recurrence. Keep the water clean. Provide a dry area with a warming light for basking. Natural healing will continue until the damaged areas are filled in (or nearly) with new epithial cells.

    This Malayan box turtle (Cuora amboinensis) was turned over to a pet store when the owner grew tired of it. An aquatic species, it had been kept in dry conditions for an extended period of time and had a flaking shell condition common to that species. The flaking shell allowed bacteria to move in under several damaged laminae. When the animal was returned to an aquarium, the pathogens flourished and mild "dry shell rot" was the result. Treated with the above method, the larger white area loosened and fell out after 3 days. Numerous other small pits cleared out after one day. Complete healing (new epithelial cells filling in the pits) took about six months.


    This Asian leaf turtle (Cyclemys dentata) was also abandoned at a pet store, which subsequently turned it over to me for treatment. There were 2 crusty patches on the plastron and numerous small ones on the carapace. The white pits on the carapace were shallow and easily removeable, but the plastron pits were quite deep. This is an ongoing case, and I expect it will require treatment for many months. There is no odor or pus, so I expect this turtle will respond well to consistent treatment with Nolvasan and dry tanking. C. dentata is an environmentally sensitive species that prefers cool, very clean, slightly acidic water. This turtle's condition was likely caused by extensive time spent in dirty and/or alkaline conditions. In other species, excessively cool water temperatures can contribute to shell rot. Another frequent causative factor is the lack of suitably warm and dry basking facilities. It is important to know the specific requirement of any species of turtle in your care, so that shell lesions can be prevented.


    © 1998 Mary Hopson, Anchorage, AK
    This information sheet may be freely copied and distributed.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     

  3. jillianjiggs

    jillianjiggs Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    550
    Joined:
    May 13, 2003
    I'm not seeing any white pits...it's more of just loss of some shell and black, rough edges around where the shell has been lost. Same thing?
     
  4. Sandra Nelson

    Sandra Nelson Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    77
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2002
    Location:
    East Central Minnesota
    It may be that you will not notice any white pits until you start cleaning and debriding the rotten shell. Often fungus will look one way where it is active and another where the tissue is dead. I am not a turtle expert. I am only going by what I have seen in horses hooves and cattle feet. Fungus on any animal is nasty. I also noted a similar color change between live and dead tissues on a chomelian (sp???) when I took care of one once. That reptile had a fungal infection too when the owner first got it. Had to get advice from a specialist in the Twin Cities that time.

    Lotsa luck..Give the above treatment a try. Can't hurt. :)
     
  5. charles

    charles Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    90
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Tea Tree oil works well topically applied on people and is greate for ick on fish.
    I would experiment with its effect on turtles.